The college season is officially over, which means all eyes now turn to the home stretch of the NBA season. The play-in tournament kicks off six weeks from today, and our big games on Tuesday night feature a few matchups that will figure prominently in that race.
If the season ended today, these two division rivals would be facing off in the 9/10 matchup of the play-in tournament, with the winner advancing to face the loser of the 7/8 game and the loser going fishing. At the same time, both teams have arguments for why they’ll eventually play themselves out of their current spot.
Indiana has played .500 ball against a brutal schedule in the dozen games since Caris LeVert returned, including eight on the road. They do have a slightly negative scoring margin in that time though, and are just 5-7 against the spread.
On the Bulls side of things, Nikola Vucevic’s new team got its first win since the big trade, putting forth a nice effort against a Brooklyn squad missing their co-MVP’s on Easter Sunday. Like Indy, Chicago’s schedule has done them no favors, and previous close road losses in Utah and Phoenix were signs of the tide beginning to turn.
It feels like the Bulls are getting primed for a run, whereas the Pacers haven’t had more than two consecutive covers since the first three games of the season. Inconsistency is their default, and they’re giving points to the better (and more desperate) team here.
The Pick: Chicago +1.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)
Only three and a half games separate these two teams in the standings, yet the Pelicans find themselves in 11th place in the Western Conference, on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in, while the Hawks are nestled into the four-seed, in position to host a first-round playoff series.
In reality, these teams are much more evenly matched than their place in the standings might indicate. Over the last 12 games, the Hawks (7th) and Pelicans (9th) both rank in the top 10 in NBA net ratings, with the difference being that the Hawks are scoring at a top-five clip in that time while the Pels are a bit lower.
Either way, both are hitting their stride at the right time. The thing to watch here will be who plays. Both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are questionable with nagging injuries that have caused each them to miss the last three games. New Orleans was able to survive against the Rockets on Sunday without them, but were beaten by the undermanned Orlando Magic last week and then suffered a 23-point home defeat to these same Hawks on Friday night.
This one comes down to how lucky you’re feeling. If the Pelicans big-two see the floor – and especially Zion Williamson, who has played himself into the thick of the All-NBA conversation – New Orleans should return the favor from the last bout.
The Pick: New Orleans +3 @ -109 (Click To Bet)
Other NBA Games
Memphis Grizzlies at Miami Heat
The Heat are finally getting healthy. Miami is 22-13 with Jimmy Butler in the lineup, and are 4-0 since Goran Dragic made his return from a 10-day absence. They’ve covered all four of those matchups as well, and seemed primed to go on a run towards the fourth seed in the East. Take them at home against an inconsistent Memphis squad.
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
These teams would play in the first round if the seeding held and the playoffs started today. Philadelphia has a positive 9.5 net rating since the break to Boston’s plus 1.0, but the Sixers have lost four of five against the spread. Even so, Embiid is playing, which is all the reason you need to take the road team.
Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors
It’s now or never for the Raptors, who won again on Monday to climb within a game of the 10th seed. The Lakers, meanwhile, have only covered twice since LeBron went down. Go with Toronto.
Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have won five straight, covering four, and are up to fourth in the West. The Pistons are bringing up the rear in the East and are playing on the second night of a back to back. Denver all the way.
Milwaukee Bucks at Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have finally slipped out the top-10 and seem ready to slide further into the lottery. Giannis looks good to go for Milwaukee, who has been humming of late, winning 11 of 14. They’ll prevail here.
Portland Trail Blazers a Los Angeles Clippers
The Blazers are very rarely out of a game, and LA just lost two straight against the Magic and Nuggets before defeating the depleted Lakers on national TV. They’re too inconsistent to take here.
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Chicago +1.5 @ -110 (Click To Bet)
New Orleans +3 @ -109 (Click To Bet)
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